Khartoum — The United States (U.S.) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to visit South Sudan as part of a major Africa trip this week in order to "encourage progress" in talks with its northern neighbor Sudan.
The U.S. Department of State announced on Monday that South Sudan's capital, Juba, will be the second stop after Senegal in Clinton's Africa trip which will run from July 31 through August 10 and include Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa.
Clinton will be the most senior US official to visit South Sudan ever since it became an independent state in July last year after voting to secede from former war foe Sudan as part of a 2005 peace agreement that Washington helped to broker.
The Department of State said Clinton will meet during her visit to South Sudan with President Salva Kiir to "reaffirm U.S. support and to encourage progress in negotiations with Sudan to reach agreement on issues related to security, oil and citizenship"
The new neighbors have been negotiating under a UN Security Council (UNSC) deadline due on 2 August to resolve a host of post-secession issues including transportation of southern oil via Sudan, disputed border regions and citizenship.
But the African Union (AU) mediated talks, which followed serious border fighting in April, appear more and more unlikely to meet the deadline which may prompt the UNSC to carry out its threats of imposing non-military sanctions on both countries.
In a separate context, the U.S. government released on Monday its 2011 Report on International Religious Freedom which once again branded Sudan along with others including China, Saudi Arabia and Eritrea as "countries of particular concerns for alleged violation of religious freedom.